Monday, June 20, 2011

It is true what they say about denial. All of it.

I have written about my complicated relationship with my mother before. This explains but a smidgen.   We've reached a precipice, and I was not sure which of us was going to fall in or go over it.  I am still not sure.  It's been that kind of hellish week for me.

Mom's hip has been in need of repair for over two years now.  She initially put it off because my Dad had a heart attack, and then died 7.5 weeks later.  Then she put it off because she was grieving.  She finally had a date to get a new hip in January 2011, but breast cancer decided to rear it's ugly head again, so no new hip.  Got over the mastectomy, which took until the end of April to heal.  It was an ordeal I wouldn't wish on anyone, and has me convinced that when the day my breasts decide to up and try and kill me, is the day they get lopped off and leave me flat chested.  So she is healed enough to go through with a total hip replacement, which she was actually really looking forward to.  Her optimism, which she is not prone to gave me hope, hope that my mother was kind of getting her shit together and preparing for a new and healthy life.

How wrong I was.  My mother is an extremely private person.  Something I clearly didn't inherit, because I will tell just about anyone my life story and then some.  I will come back to that first sentence after a bit of explanation. When my father had his heart attack, the plan of action was to have him undergo open heart surgery as soon as they could get him stable.  About 18 hours after he was brought in things went south quickly.  They had to put him on Ativan.  A hell of a lot of Ativan.   Some 30 hours after the heart attack he was dosed with enough Ativan to take down an elephant, yet he was still tremoring like crazy and his temperature was so high they had him stripped down naked laying on a bed of ice.  A BED OF ICE.  With a delicious blanket of MORE ICE.  Nearly two days later a nurse finally had the balls to ask if he drank.  I snorted "Hell yeah he drinks!"  The look she gave was odd.  I went on to tell her about the vodka he practically mainlines when he gets home from work.  The bottles of red wine he would wind the evening up with.  She then told me what my mother said: "he has a martini every night.".

Right.  If a martini is straight vodka on ice.  So that was my first lesson in my mother's denial.  The second was when I walked into the waiting room bewildered at why she would lie...when the man is clearly on death's door.  All my siblings were there, the teenaged grandchildren, some aunts and uncles.  I came out to quietly ask "Mom what did you tell the nurse?" (inside I was screaming: "WHAT THE FUCK?!?") when she hotly replied that the nurse had "no business asking that question."  I stood there dumbfounded.  Like someone had seriously smacked me in the head with a brick.  We are not quiet people, so I am sure I hollered "ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR FUCKING MIND?!?!?" loud enough for the entire hospital to hear.  What ensued was a lot of yelling, cussing, teenagers being shooed away, and the scaring of the poor quiet family sitting on the other side of the room.  She maintained that level of denial while his kidneys started to shut down.  When his liver started failing. When his lungs gave up and he needed to be trached.  Even after his intestines started dying, and they opened him up to do surgery eight times.  My brother and I had to contact the hospital social worker to ask if my mother ever put our dad's DNR in place.  She hadn't.  He coded twice before we asked about the DNR. My brother and I had to finally make the call to remove him from life support.  She still didn't believe it.  As he lay dying, she screamed over his body, yanking his arm "why are you doing this to me?!?"  Horrific doesn't even begin to detail what those seven and a half weeks were like.

It has been a long two years of me picking up the pieces of that mess.  Because nobody in the family was willing to help out.

I shattered her privacy again yesterday by telling the nurse that my mother drinks.  Every day.  Because she lives alone, and I have had to detach myself from it, I don't know how much.  She had her surgery on Thursday.  She was "okay" on Friday, getting antsy and anxious on Saturday.  She could have been released on Saturday, but she refused to do all of the PT.  Sunday rolled around and she was not only refusing PT, but she was completely disregarding the instructions to stay in bed/sit in her chair.  All she had to do was call the nurse to help her up.  Nope.  She fell out of bed on Sunday morning trying to do it herself.  Had to take her to x-ray. Scared the ever-living-shit out of me.  Get to the hospital and she is sitting there, fine.  She had been loopy, as most people on pain meds are, but something was

She was really agitated, and getting mean.  Even to the nurses and aides.  Mom is usually extremely polite to strangers, so that alarmed me.  So I sat by her bedside surfing the net while she slept, half listening to her talks with people she met in her dreams.  She would startle awake and be embarrassed about it and I'd just say "no worries...go back to sleep".  A few hours later a nurse approached me and asked me if Mom drinks.  I gave her the low-down: "I know she drinks wine every night, because I over heard her tell someone that last week...she says it's a few glasses a night."  It's all I really knew, because we don't talk about drinking.  She knows I hate being around it, and the times I have brought up that she could ease up on it, have gone...not well.

I return to the hospital today to find a HIGHLY agitated and angry mother.  Within ten minutes of me being there she tries to stand up and an ear-piercing alarm starts screaming.  Five nurses come running into the room.  That's when I see they attached an alarm to her.  I deduce they did not have a good night with Dear Mother.  She argues with them, says she can do it herself, but is so unsteady on her feet it takes three nurses to help her to the bathroom.  I step out into the hall and approach the nurse who looked in charge.  She tells me what I feared: Mom is going through delirium tremors.  She's detoxing, and it's only going to get worse from that point on.

And it did.  Soon after they gave her some Ativan to calm her down.  I go back to my laptop and watch as she abruptly awakes, starts grabbing for the phone, and telling me to help her.  "Who are you calling Mom?"  She doesn't answer me, I ask her again and she very rudely shushes me and then sits in rapt attention for the next five minutes.  Listening to the dial tone.  Back to sleep.  Another ten minutes passes and she starts freaking out about a magazine she wants to read but can't find.  No such magazine existed in the room.  A little while later I see her moving around in her chair, she's bending over (a HUGE no-no for the new hip) to grab a scrap of paper off the floor when I rush over to help her.  She starts yelling at me to get back, she can do it her damn self.  Again, I am not a quiet person, I yell back "NO YOU CAN'T!  CALL the damn nurse, MOTHER!"  She starts yelling and the poor aide comes running in to calm her.  The man has the patience of a saint, I swear.  At that point she sneers at me and says "YOU can go.  I don't need you here.  LEAVE!!!!"

Peace-the-fuck-out.  Gathered my belongings and ran for the door.  I had HAD IT.  I stop at the charge nurses' desk to tell her she needs to get someone, anyone down there to talk to that woman about her drinking.  I leave and head home to relieve Rob of 5 days of nearly 24/7 Cam duty.  He was gathering up his stuff to go to the gun range when I realized my wallet was missing.  Yeah, I had to slink back to the hospital and search that room.  Last place on Earth I wanted to be.  I had been texting with one of my sisters and she met me there.  She's technically my step sis (and has her very own issues with my mother), so her being there meant more to me than anyone will ever know.  She went in and talked to Mom while I waited in the hall.  She was shocked at her condition.  Vowed to help me out, to back me up about Mom's behavior when she is back to normal and telling us she doesn't have a problem.

It's insanity.  I know it's the insanity of the disease.  But it hurts.  A lot.  She is my last remaining parent.  My fathers drank themselves to death.  I cannot watch another.  I am trained as an addictions counselor, yet I am clueless right now as to what to do.  She's been a great mom.  A really shitty mom.  A generous mom.  And a selfish mom.  She's an alcoholic, and that's what we do to the one's we love.  It's what the disease does.  I know in my head and I know everything I have been taught that the disease does the ugly, dirty work, it just uses the person and body it has control over.  I know that, but right now I am so goddamned angry and resentful of my mother, I cannot separate the two.

But I have to if I want to keep her alive.

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